Wallcovering Terminology

The majority of wallcoverings have three layers, each of which perform an important function. Starting from the top surface and working to the back, the layers are:

The Decorative Layer -- The thinnest layer in most cases, this is comprised of the inks applied to the top of the intermediate layer. This decorative layer is normally the major reason a wallcovering is chosen. The decorative layer may also have a protective polymer coating to provide added performance characteristics.

The Intermediate Layer -- This layer, the ground, provides the surface upon which the decorative layer is printed. It also provides the background color that, while often an off-white, can be any color depending upon the design. This layer can range in thickness from less than one mil to as much as 10 mils as in heavier-weight, "solid-vinyl" products. Note that a mil is 1/1000 of an inch.

The Third Layer -- The substrate or backing is the portion of the wallcovering that goes against the wall. This backing can be of a wide variety of materials ranging from woven and non-woven fabrics to lightweight paper products.

There are many different grounds and substrates used to make wallcoverings. As noted earlier, the combinations or constructions of these various materials provide the characteristics typical in wallcoverings. These features include degrees of strength or durability, scrubbability, washability, stain resistance, abrasion resistance, colorfastness, etc.

A listing of the most important or common characteristics and definitions are as follows:

  • Washable
  • means that a wallcovering can withstand occasional sponging with a prescribed detergent solution.
  • Scrubbable
  • means that a wallcovering can withstand scrubbing with a brush and a prescribed detergent solution.
  • Stain Resistance
  • is the ability to show no appreciable change after removal of different types of stains such as grease, butter, coffee, etc.
  • Abrasion Resistance
  • is the ability to withstand mechanical actions such as rubbing, scraping or scrubbing.
  • Colorfastness
  • is the ability to resist change or loss of color caused by exposure to light over a measured period of time.
  • Peelable
  • means that the decorative surface and ground may be drypeeled leaving a continuous layer of the substrate on the wall which can be used as a liner for hanging new wallcovering. It must, however, be scraped off to prepare the wall for paint. Peelable wallcoverings today are usually paper-back vinyl products in which a layer of solid vinyl is adhered to a substrate.
  • Strippable
  • means that the wallcovering can be drystripped from the wall leaving a minimum of paste or adhesive residue and without damage to the wall's surface. Be sure to note the difference between strippable and peelable.
  • Prepasted means that the substrate of the wallcovering has been treated with an adhesive that is activated by water.

Whether a particular wallcovering is strippable or peelable will be marked in the sample book or on the label of the wallcovering bolt.

Content Provided by the Wallcoverings Association (WA).